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Thread: Help narrowing down our cities list...

  1. #26
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bigbadbuff
    I think the places exciting us the most to check out are, in no order, Denver, Tucson, Portland, Palo Alto, Madison, Columbus, and Atlanta.
    Hmm aren't Madison and Denver too darned cold for you? People from from Michigan think those places are cold!

  2. #27

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    Quote Originally posted by bigbadbuff
    not IN Palo but close by for under 300k, and it's not in a bad area???
    I find this extremely unlikely. My townhouse in much less desirable Solano County (an hour northeast of San Francisco) is worth more than $300K (theoretically).

    Unless by "house" your friend of a friend has purchased a 300 square foot storage shed in a back yard.

    Or, unless this person had some kind of insider deal (i.e., bought from family or close friends)


    I googled on realtor.com Redwood City. This is your cheapest property ($495K): http://realtor.com/FindHome/HomeList...6&lnksrc=00001


    Here is a charming "starter home" for $595 K:

    http://realtor.com/FindHome/HomeList...2&lnksrc=00001

    The cheapest property in Palo Alto proper is $680K.

    http://realtor.com/FindHome/HomeList...8&lnksrc=00002

    East Palo Alto, next door, is definitely cheaper, but it has had serious crime problems in the past. It depends on your tolerance for risk, and the runup in overall Bay Area housing prices has certainly helped East Palo Alto "settle down" from the crack cocaine era of the late 80s (the State had to send Highway Patrol officers to help the local sheriff get things under control).


    If you need a new, 2,000 square foot single family house on its own lot (i.e., the suburban dream), then you are looking at Stockton/Manteca-which is AT LEAST an hour away-on a good day.

    Again, if homeownership is a requirement, then yes, it will be difficult to enter the Northern California market. Especially the Penninsula.

  3. #28
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner
    Hmm aren't Madison and Denver too darned cold for you? People from from Michigan think those places are cold!

    Well, I don't know yet. I am DEFINITELY more a warm weather guy but I also like having 4 seasons too. I haven't seen anyone say Denver is too cold- maybe it is for a few months of the year but all the temp charts I've looked at look fine to me. Madison, I don't know- I'm willing to compromise on it being cold for some of the year as long as it still has 4 seasons and plenty of sunny days. I still don't know if it does, looking into that. We just found out we'll be going up there the first weekend of November to check things out, wonder if that is a good time of year?

    Very disappointing about Palo Alto but not surprising. The CA real estate market almost HAS to be headed for very rough times- I simply don't see how home prices that far above the cost of living, spread over every single desirable area of a state that size, could withstand even a slight recession. Never know though.

  4. #29
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bigbadbuff
    3) I see Providence well regarded everywhere, but don't see the reasons behind that posted often. Can anyone summarize? I see property tax is over 30%, unreal
    I thought that I did a good job. The architecture is great. The city has wonderful ethnic neighborhoods and a relatively healthy downtown with theatres, a huge new mall, convention center, auditorium, clubs, outdoor ice skating rink, Amtrak and commuter rail service to Boston in 45-50 minutes, and a great new riverfront park. The city is full of young people. It is close to the ocean, beaches, mountains and large national and state parks and forests. Housing costs are low compared to other northeastern cities and it has the best urban park and zoo in New England (Roger Williams Park). Couple this with little traffic and an easily accessible airport (T.F. Green). You really can't go wrong.

    As for taxes. I assume you do not mean 30% of assessed value? That is outlandish. According to the city tax assessor, the property tax rate for residential properties is only 2.965% ($29.65/$1,000) of assessed value. Residential properties in New England are very seldomly assessed at actual market value. Providence als has a homestead exemption and owner occupants don’t pay tax on the first $50,000 of assessed value.
    Last edited by jmello; 22 Sep 2005 at 1:45 PM.

  5. #30

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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    I thought that I did a good job. The architecture is great. The city has wonderful ethnic neighborhoods and a relatively healthy downtown with theatres, a huge new mall, convention center, auditorium, clubs, outdoor ice skating rink, Amtrak and commuter rail service to Boston in 45-50 minutes, and a great new riverfront park. The city is full of young people. It is close to the ocean, beaches, mountains and large national and state parks and forests. Housing costs are low compared to other northeastern cities and it has the best urban park and zoo in New England (Roger Williams Park). Couple this with little traffic and an easily accessible airport (T.F. Green). You really can't go wrong.

    As for taxes. I assume you do not mean 30% of assessed value? That is outlandish. According to the city tax assessor, the property tax rate for residential properties is only 2.965% ($29.65/$1,000) of assessed value. Residential properties in New England are very seldomly assessed at actual market value.
    Wow. California tax rates are limited to 1.25%-and the assessed value cannot rise more than 1% per year. Of course, new subdivisions pay their own way through special assessments and benefit districts (which contributes yet more to high house prices).

  6. #31
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    Yeah, I had read that Providence was $3.20 of every $100 in assessed value, which is the highest I have seen. I see that is a little off from jmello's #s.

    Well it really sucks that the places I am most looking forward to checking out have some big drawbacks (Palo Alto=$$$, Portland= overcast a majority of the year, Madison= cold a majority of the year). I know there's no perfect place though, and if everything else at the places seemed great then we'd get over it.

    The slight saving grace to going to CA would be we wouldn't need a down payment on a house as we'd be renting... so we could keep our house here that we both love and have her father or a couple of other people be our absentee landlords and rent it out til we came back. Course, we'd still be throwing away 1k a month in rent

  7. #32
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bigbadbuff
    Yeah, I had read that Providence was $3.20 of every $100 in assessed value, which is the highest I have seen. I see that is a little off from jmello's #s.
    Off-topic:
    Yikes! That's nearing Buffalo area tax rates. Some of the suburbs approach $40/$1000 with no equalization.

  8. #33

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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Off-topic:
    Yikes! That's nearing Buffalo area tax rates. Some of the suburbs approach $40/$1000 with no equalization.
    Off-topic:
    Of course, in California, the tax rate may be low, but new home buyers pay huge impact fees. At least $30,000 per unit up front. I've heard that Livermore, a growing East Bay suburb, assesses $100,000 up front for new home permits. Add in the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Districts, Lighting and Landscape Districts, and Homeowners Association fees, the overall burden becomes much greater.

    Of course, people who bought in older, pre-Mello Roos subdivisions-or corporate, commercial property owners who have not sold their property and hence have not been reassessed, don't pay a high tax burden at all. Nonetheless, these later groups (the elderly, and big business) are the biggest whiners about taxes.

  9. #34
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BigBadBuff
    Yeah, I had read that Providence was $3.20 of every $100 in assessed value, which is the highest I have seen. I see that is a little off from jmello's #s.
    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Yikes! That's nearing Buffalo area tax rates. Some of the suburbs approach $40/$1000 with no equalization.
    My quote of 2.965% ($29.65/$1,000) was based on actual data from the City of Providence, not hearsay. Providence has a split tax rate as well, with commercial and industrial property taxed at $37.00/$1,000.

    Another thing to keep in mind: there are no additional state, county or school district taxes, no impact fees and the rates I quoted are only for the City of Providence. There are plenty of other municipalities to choose from in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts (where the income and sales taxes are only 5%). Fiscal Year 2006 residential tax rates in RI range from a low of $4.78/$1,000 to a high of $30.23/$1,000.

    And, homeowner associations are rare, if they exist at all.

  10. #35
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    My quote of 2.965% ($29.65/$1,000) was based on actual data from the City of Providence, not hearsay. Providence has a split tax rate as well, with commercial and industrial property taxed at $37.00/$1,000.

    Another thing to keep in mind: there are no additional state, county or school district taxes, no impact fees and the rates I quoted are only for the City of Providence. There are plenty of other municipalities to choose from in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts (where the income and sales taxes are only 5%). Fiscal Year 2006 residential tax rates in RI range from a low of $4.78/$1,000 to a high of $30.23/$1,000.

    And, homeowner associations are rare, if they exist at all.
    Please! my property taxes are closer to $85/$1,000. I also pay a 2.6 percent income tax to the city. And they wonder why so many rich folks have left? If your job moves 15 miles out of town, why on earth stay? On the plus side my taxable value is only about 14 percent of the homes actual value, so its not that much in reality.

    The way taxes are set up in this state it rewards those that don't trade up or move, taxable value of homes are frozen at purchase and not allowed to increase more than the rate of inflation with a cap of 4 percent. For cities such as Detroit, where the average home price has tripled in the last Decade, this is a disincentive.

  11. #36

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    Don't think that you have gotten much feedback on Columbus yet...I lived there for a number of years. Columbus has the strongest economy of anywhere in Ohio -- there are even immigrants there, which is unusual for the state. Thus there are also more yuppies there than elsewhere. Mid-Ohio's weather is rather odd. Pretty hot and humid in the summer. Winters are cold, but not as bad as northern Ohio and not particularly prone to snow. For outdoor activities, you can easily get to the Ohio countryside (some state parks, smaller lakes etc.). But I am not at all an expert on outdoor activities. Lake Erie is 2-3 hours away.

    As I understand it, downtown has actually declined over the last 10-15 years. The fact that the two latest and greatest things there are on the edge of the city (Easton and Polaris shopping malls) is not a good sign. In the '90s, there was some interesting development in the so-called Short North (just north of downtown and south of Ohio State) -- it used to be seedy, but now is full of art galleries and restaurants. I see some newish condos there (Victorian Gate) are selling from $126K to $359K. Just south of downtown is German Village, an interesting older, mixed use neighborhood (see germanvillage.org). The Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus, which is north of OSU, is perhaps my favorite. Affordable, older neighborhood with shops along High Street. Of course, prices in Columbus are much lower than along the coasts, though probably a bit higher than elsewhere in Ohio. Of the suburbs, I prefer close-in Grandview Heights, just west of downtown. Also check out old money Bexley, east of downtown. The presense of OSU ensures that there is some culture in town, but maybe not as much as you might have thought. The city definitely lacks the character of Cleveland -- some may find Columbus a bit drab. For a city the size of Columbus, it is completely dominated by Ohio State sports (basketball and especially football). This absolutely cannot be escaped. Of course, the 100,000+ seat football stadium is always sold out, and especially if the team is having a good year it's difficult to get tickets.

  12. #37
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    Thanks Kovanovich. I think we've soured a bit on Ohio though (I was never very interested in it myself). We've scheduled visits to the following so far:

    Madison in early November
    St. Petersburg in late November
    Tucson in early December
    Atlanta in early January

    Not ideal times to visit any of them I'm sure, but we have no control over that.

  13. #38
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Cincinnati was a real shock to me when I visited a couple years ago. I left very impressed with how pleasant a city it is.

    Pittsburg is a sleeper, another one of those towns with a grungy image, but is really a gem.
    I agree completely, Cinci is now my favorite city in Ohio.

  14. #39
    Cyburbian eightiesfan's avatar
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    No offense to any Ohio residents, but I spent 2 years in Ohio and never really enjoyed it. Cinci to me was the most racially segregated place I've ever lived. The conservative vibe that place gives off is scarry. It's a shame because it has some great architecture and river cities have a nice appeal. I also lived downtown near Over The Rhine during the riots and police brutality scandal. The only way I think I'd move back to that city was if somebody gave me a house in Mt. Adams

    I've spent a fair amount of time in Columbus as well. For some reason it always struck me as a city with a lot of potential that never really delivered. The campus is huge and the # of students is incredible, but it felt like a ghost town to me. I spent numerous weekends walking around exploring the High St. area looking for things to do, and usually walked away bored. For a city with that many college students you would think it would be pretty vibrant, but it seemed very mainstream/blah to me.
    Regrets, I've had a few; But then again, too many to mention.

  15. #40
    Quote Originally posted by eightiesfan
    No offense to any Ohio residents, but I spent 2 years in Ohio and never really enjoyed it. Cinci to me was the most racially segregated place I've ever lived. The conservative vibe that place gives off is scarry. It's a shame because it has some great architecture and river cities have a nice appeal. I also lived downtown near Over The Rhine during the riots and police brutality scandal. The only way I think I'd move back to that city was if somebody gave me a house in Mt. Adams
    Cinci does seem to have a conservative bend, and Hamilton County was the only major Ohio county to go to the dark side in the 2004 Election - they voted for Bush. But the suburbs have a pretty strong chokehold on the county in terms of city-suburb ratio, much higher than Toledo and Columbus. Cinci proper comprises only 40% of Hamilton County which makes me wonder what the actual voting results were for just the City of Cincinnati. Can't imagine them voting for Bush. So is the city really that conservative or is it the metro area, because if you add Northern Kentucky, the results are even more skewed.

    The city has some great architecture, especially in the Over-The-Rhine section, but a good deal of vacant buildings, although there are signs that some are being rehabilitated. The downside of course, is gentrification, which is bound to heighten the tenuous racial tensions that are prevalent. The downtown area is quite small but parking is affordable (they have $1 for two hours deal available at quite a few garages). The 49 story-Carew Tower offers one of the best vistas among any major city in America, because it is one of the tallest, if not the tallest buildings where the top is outside and not glass or cage enclosed. You could literally jump off the side.


    I've spent a fair amount of time in Columbus as well. For some reason it always struck me as a city with a lot of potential that never really delivered. The campus is huge and the # of students is incredible, but it felt like a ghost town to me. I spent numerous weekends walking around exploring the High St. area looking for things to do, and usually walked away bored.
    They have more surface parking lots that Toledo, which is saying a lot. Worse, they have lots of political fatcats and corporate suckups that pride themselves on never going outside the beltway. Toledo is in Michigan as far at the political cronies and powers that be in Columbus are concerned. Columbus is the worst city in Ohio.

    For a city with that many college students you would think it would be pretty vibrant, but it seemed very mainstream/blah to me.
    They are all at the mall watching Varsity Blues. I always found the fratboy antics of OSU students to be extremely annoying.
    Last edited by Super Amputee Cat; 04 Oct 2005 at 1:38 PM.

  16. #41

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    With the exception of Atlanta, I think your list hits the high spots. The one place with a well-regarded medical school that is not on your list is Salt Lake City. If you want sunshine without the withering heat of Tucson, it is sunnier than any of the other choices. Early December is the absolutely nicest time to be in Tucson, but don't be deceived. It will be 110 by sometime in June.

  17. #42
    Cyburbian eightiesfan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Super Amputee Cat
    Cinci does seem to have a conservative bend, and Hamilton County was the only major Ohio county to got to the dark side in the 2004 Election - they voted for Bush. But the suburbs have a pretty strong chokehold on the county in terms of city-suburb ratio, much higher than Toledo and Columbus. Cinci proper comprises only 40% of Hamilton County which makes me wonder what the actual voting results were for just the City of Cincinnati. Can't imagine them voting for Bush. So is the city really that conservative or is it the metro area, because if you add Northern Kentucky, the results are even more skewed.

    That's a good question. I spent almost all of my time in the city, Clifton, Hyde Park, Mt. Adams, & Mt. Lookout areas which I'm sure are the most lib areas in town. I guess what I meant was just an overall sense of conservative vibes, wether it be getting out of a show at Bogarts with hundreds of people crossing the street, and only the minoritys getting harrased with jaywalking tickets and full body searches or being pulled over by the police beacuse you are not white and in a nice car.

    The city has some great architecture, especially in the Over-The-Rhine section, but a good deal of vacant buildings, although there are signs that some are being rehabilitated. The downside of course, is gentrification, which is bound to heighten the tenuous racial tensions that are prevalent. The downtown area is quite small but parking is affordable (they have $1 for two hours deal available at quite a few garages). The 49 story-Carew Tower offers one of the best vistas among any major city in America, because it is one of the tallest, if not the tallest buildings where the top is outside and not glass or cage enclosed. You could literally jump off the side.

    I lived downtown and loved my building and the views from the roof, but it was not a good place to live. Nothing was open after 5 or 6 on weekdays, and weekends were dead since all the offices were closed. You HAD to drive to get anything, groceries, lunch, etc. Over the Rhine also had a terrible hopeless tone. Definitely a depressing place with nothing positive going on at all. Hopefully things are changing for the better.




    They have more surface parking lots that Toledo, which is saying a lot. Worse, they have lots of political fatcats and corporate suckups that pride themselves on never going outside the beltway. Toledo is in Michigan as far at the political cronies and powers that be in Columbus are concerned. Columbus is the worst city in Ohio.

    Yep, it came across very bland to me as well. Seemed like everything was happening in the burbs.



    They are all at the mall watching Varsity Blues. I always found the fratboy antics of OSU students to be extremely annoying.
    That makes sense.
    Regrets, I've had a few; But then again, too many to mention.

  18. #43
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    With the exception of Atlanta, I think your list hits the high spots.
    What do you not like about Atlanta? Most say the traffic but it looks like, to me anyway, there are several burbs that allow you to stay off the nightmare highways and still get to Emory and downtown without much headache- all in our price range as well. Is that not the case?

  19. #44
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bigbadbuff
    What do you not like about Atlanta?
    There is no "there" there.

  20. #45
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    Ahhh, isn't that novel: anti-Atlanta insults

    But I wouldn't blame anyone for not moving to Atlanta, but also I wouldn't blame anyone for wanting to move out of Boston. So - it's what you want to get out of it. We don't have much of an urban experience, but I quite like our streetcar suburbs & outlying downtown neighborhoods like Cabbagetown where I live.

    Once you are in 'intown' (considered a 5 mile area surrounding downtown) & especially if you are going to go to Emory, traffic isn't that bad. It sucks, but it isn't anything like the fools that have 2+ hour commutes every day in the suburbs.

    But if your decision is strictly based on urbanist planning theory or you're a Jane Jacobs cultist - then you probably wouldn't want to live in Atlanta I personally don't think it's that bad, I of course don't leave the city much to go in the suburbs - but then again I don't plan on living here the rest of my life.

    Just a suggestion though - when ever someone pleads to you to move to a specific city, remember to check where that person lives. Not saying a city like Calgary is terrible, but usually the only people that swear that everyone should move to Calgary because how great the city is growing, are usually people that live in Calgary.

  21. #46
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    Have you taken a good look at Madison? If you like the atmosphere of a state capital city alongside a college town, you'll like it there. There are plenty of vibrant neighbourhoods to live in, including some new TNDs. The cost of living is still reasonable. Unemployment is absurdly low, below 2% I believe.

    There's a pretty sharp line between Madison's city limits and the surrounding rural area. Personally, I like the sort of thing. Culture and arts are what you would expect from a city with a major university. One thing I enjoyed was the community radio station (not NPR) with whacky but interesting programming as you might expect.

    Wisconsin has a reputation for being cold, but Madison is far enough south that it is not really much different than Chicago. If you can handle the winters there, you can also handle Madison.

    I should mention I lived in Madison from March through July of 2004. The weather in March was fine by my standards, and quite sunny (but never unbearably hot) all summer long. The only times I was unhappy with the weather was when it rained in the morning and I was in a hurry to get to work, so I got drenched on my bicycle. (I didn't own a car for most of my months in Madison, and encountered no problems doing this.)
    Last edited by nerudite; 09 Jan 2006 at 2:58 PM. Reason: merge

  22. #47
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    Quote Originally posted by MennoJoshua
    Have you taken a good look at Madison?

    Not yet, we're going there in November. It definitely has my interest. The only negative on paper for me is the winter weather, but if everything else was great I would get over it. Never experienced a Chicago winter, but being that I love snow yet hate the cold I don't imagine I would enjoy it.

    We're going to Atlanta in December and I will be sure to check out the areas close in that people keep mentioning.

  23. #48
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bigbadbuff
    2) Probably goes without saying, but I would assume Portland is overcast and drizzly for most of the year? The precip charts I've looked at are disheartening, I love the sun
    I think a lot of Oregonians (and Washingtonians) appreciate the fact that many midwesterners and east coast (and CA) residents perceive the Pac NW to be "overcast and drizzly for most of the year". Portland gets comparable annual rainfall measurements to Detroit and many other midwestern and northeast cities. We undeniably have overcast-laden winters and springs but we also have a fair smattering of beautiful, crisp, sunny 55 degree winter days as well. I have found precip. charts to be kinda misleading wrt Portland, especially the "days with cloud cover" stats. Most days with cloud cover also come wth plenty of sunshine (typified by low hanging morning clouds that often burn off by noon).

    Many area golf courses play well throughout the year and ultimate frisbee games are a common site throughout the winter months. Last year, the jet stream directed most of our typical winter rain to LA and SD and we got endless days of 50-60 degrees and sun. The summers and falls here, are, well, absolutely wonderful.....lots of sun, rarely over 85 (or under 70), no humidity, no bugs.....

    Don't buy into the misperceptions (even from people who have "been here and know") about Portland's (or even Seattle's) endlessly dreary weather. It's simply not true. I like all four seasons and prefer Portland's weather to just about any other place I've been (lacks a bit in the snow department, but....).

    Lots of people equate OR's coastal weather to being the same as Portland's. It's not -- we often get hammered here on the coast with (sideways) rain and fog while Portland will be basking in sunshine. OR's coast range that sets between the Pacific Ocean and Portland does a pretty good job (100+ inches annual rainfall) of gathering up much of the rainfall that would otherwise fall on Portland.

    Seriously, don't fret about Portland's weather. If you are a sun-worshiper, yea, the winters will get kinda old, but, eh, (imho) it's well worth it (even here on the much damper coast) given the great weather during the other seasons (and the sunny winter breaks I mentioned previously).

    Maybe I need to go to work for the Portland Chamber of Commerce or something.......

  24. #49
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    [QUOTE=DetroitPlanner]Please! my property taxes are closer to $85/$1,000. QUOTE]

    I'm sorry - but I find that very hard to believe. On a $200,000 house that would mean your taxes are about $1400 a month - equal to or more than the mortgage.

  25. #50
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    Quote Originally posted by bigbadbuff
    A couple more questions:

    1) Pensacola seems to be thought of well and has pretty much everything we're looking for, would anyone put it ahead of St. Pete, Jacksonville, and Gainesville (with the point being to find 1 FL city to seriously consider)? Gainesville sounds nice too but heck if I'm going to move to FL I might as well be close to a beach

    As a North Florida dweller, here is my 2 cents on the Florida cities:

    Gainesville: College town. Not bad, but definitely a college town. (This is from someone who went to college there.)

    Pensacola: Lovely city, beautiful downtown, phenomenal beaches. The downsides are lots of religious zealots and an awful lot of hurricanes.

    Jacksonville: While there are many parts of this city that are dreadful (don't let anyone try to sell you on East Arlington, Orange Park or Mandarin), Wolfson Childrens Hospital is very centrally located smack in the middle of two great older neighborhoods and downtown. Nightlife here is respectable (better at the beach), and homes are still reasonably affordable. A decent home can still be found for under $250K. This is my hometown and after living in a few of the cities on your list I can say that it's a pretty good place to be.

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